“THE WALL STREET JOURNAL” published a brilliant article by Peter Berkowitz this month. In “Why Liberal Education Matters” Berkowitz argues most convincingly that,

“Today it is the connection of the humanities to a free mind and citizenship in a free society that requires defense.”

Liberal education supposes that while individual rights are shared equally by all, the responsible exercise of those rights is an achievement that depends on cultivating the mind.

. . .

How can one think independently about what kind of life to live without acquiring familiarity with the ideas about happiness and misery, exaltation and despair, nobility and baseness that study of literature, philosophy and religion bring to life? How can one pass reasoned judgment on public policy if one is ignorant of the principles of constitutional government, the operation of the market, the impact of society on perception and belief and, not least, the competing opinions about justice to which democracy in America is heir?

. . .

A proper education, culminating in a liberal education, gives science an honored place. It teaches students, among other things, the fundamentals of the scientific method and the contribution that science has made to human security, freedom and prosperity; it exposes all students to the basic achievements of biology, chemistry and physics; and it encourages those with aptitude to specialize. At the same time, a liberal education brings into focus the limits of science, beginning with the impossibility of explaining the value of science and math in scientific and mathematical terms — to say nothing of science’s incapacity to account for the worth and dignity of the individual.

As regular readers of this BLOG will remember, I have written several times about the importance of a liberal education to both the individual and to our country. I have repeatedly pointed out the decline of so many of our leading universities when it comes to a meaningful education. As I’ve stated, too many of those universities have adopted a trade school philosophy in which professional training has replaced critical thinking and intellectual exposure.

I sometimes wonder if it’s too big a stretch to compare the decline of a thinking education to the increased popularity of “opinion media.” Is there a connection between this “dumbing down” and the growing audiences for the two propaganda networks, MSNBC and FOX News? As Al Gore has cautioned,

“The ‘well-informed citizenry’ is in danger of becoming the ‘well-amused audience’.”

Have we regressed so far that we are exclusively interested in our own embryonically-formed opinions being reinforced by equally incompletely-informed “talking heads?” Have we stopped wanting to examine “all sides” in order to increase our knowledge and, in the process, move beyond “surface opinion” and onto wisdom and understanding?

I hope not . . .

Enjoy your long holiday weekend! More next Wednesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning